Two of the World’s Top CEOs Are in Massachusetts

The Harvard Business Review's rankings are in.

boston skyline

Photo by Greg DuBois

The results are in, and two local chief executives have made the cut on Harvard Business Review’s list of the the “Best-Peforming CEOs in the World.”

HBR‘s ranking system gauges how successful a CEO has been over the long-term, but it doesn’t just weigh financial achievements. Last year, it began to take new factors into account, among them a CEO’s track record on social issues and the environment. To qualify, one has to have been a CEO for more than two years and avoided being convicted of a crime. The rankings take into account everything that happens from the executive’s first day in charge to April 30, 2016.

More from the magazine’s report out today:

This is a challenging time to be a CEO. Around the world, economies are in slow-growth mode. In nearly every region, political uncertainty undermines attempts to develop long-term plans. In the United States in particular, shareholder activists have become powerful (and vocal) critics of business leaders. These forces help explain why the C-suite sometimes appears to have a revolving door: In 2015 turnover among global CEOs reached a record rate of nearly 17%, and more than a fifth of the CEOs who left their posts over the past few years were dismissed.

Is it any wonder so many CEOs focus on the short term?

Against this bleak backdrop, it’s heartening to see a group of business leaders compiling track rec­ords that allow them to stick around and implement long-term strategies.

Well, he didn’t exactly stick around, but coming in at number 21 is ex-Biogen CEO George Scangos. As the outgoing head of the biotechnology firm, which is the most highly valued company in Massachusetts, he oversaw some ups and downs. Before the Cambridge-headquartered company announced in July that he was stepping down, Scangos led Biogen through layoffs and a change in focus that saw it move away from its work with some drugs.

“2015 was a tough year for Biogen,” he told Boston this year. “2010 through 2014 were spectacular years: nothing but unbelievable good execution, good data, good results, and good luck. In 2015, our commercial products were still growing, but at a slower pace than we thought they were going to. We’re running expensive Phase 3 trials. So we decided not to try to compete in all of the areas where we were competing. We stopped immunology and fibrosis research. The result was substantial savings. Now we can fund programs that will drive value for the company and benefit for patients.”

American Tower Corporation CEO James Taiclet Jr came 31st. The Boston company deals in communications infrastructure, and Taiclet has been steering the ship since 2003.

The top spot, though, according to HBR, did not go to a Massachusetts businessperson. That honor went to Lars Sørensen, of the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.

Read more about the best CEOs in the world here.